Harry Potter nerds are everywhere these days. Even though the book series wrapped up years ago, as did the films, the fandom has yet to quiet down at all. Being a fan means that you want to dive deep into every facet of the world that you love. In the case of Harry Potter, that means learning more about each of the families at the center of the series.
The Blacks and Lestranges are two of the most interesting families in the Harry Potter story. They're quite ancient, and they produce characters that fight both for and against Voldemort. Despite spending quite a bit of time in the Black family home, there's still plenty we don't know about them. As for the Lestranges, they're even more of a mystery. Both families have a lot to tell us about the world of Harry Potter and its enormous history.
Although the meaning in Bellatrix's last name is fairly self-evident, her first name also contains hints as to who she really is. The word Bellatrix is latin, and it means "war-like." That war-like nature is also connected to her femininity through the "trix," which has a feminine meaning.
War seems to be in Bellatrix's blood. She certainly likes fighting, to say the least. If only she'd considered fighting for the good guys instead of the bad guys. Unfortunately, Bellatrix's skills in war don't save her in the end. Warriors are great in battle until the day they're finally cut down to size.
Although it's easy to miss this connection in the movies, Bellatrix actually has two siblings. One is Narcissa Malfoy, Draco's mother. The other is Andromeda Tonks, Nymphadora Tonks's mother. We get a few brief glimpses at Narcissa throughout the films, but we never meet Tonks's mother. She's only in one scene in the books, so it makes sense that she was cut out of the film.
Still, it's a shame that we couldn't get a little more back story on the history of Bellatrix's family. Although Helena Bonham Carter's performance in the role is outstanding, she doesn't have as much depth in the film as she does in the books.
In the world of Harry Potter, pureblood families guard their purity religiously. As a result, there are families in the wizarding world known as "The Sacred 28," which means that their blood has remained pure to this day. Of course, as Sirius points out, there are no truly pure-blooded families anymore. Somewhere along the way, muggles and squibs have almost invariably muddied the waters.
The Blacks and Lestranges are both part of this sacred group, even though it's something of a lie. Still, both families hold on to the idea of keeping their blood pure, even if that idea is a bit of a fantasy.
Voldemort is obviously one of the most powerful wizards ever to live, but some of his Death Eaters are pretty incredible in their own right. Among them, Bellatrix is the most powerful and skillful wizard. That skill is evident throughout Bellatrix's fights in the books and films. She manages to kill Sirius, a great wizard in his own right.
Although this isn't in the film, she also manages to take down Hermione, Ginny, and Luna at the same time in the books. Clearly, she's a witch that shouldn't be messed with. There's a reason she loves Voldemort so much. It's not just ideology, it's also a certain set of shared talents.
Bellatrix's love for Voldemort is evident basically the second we meet her. It's clear that she'll follow him anywhere. In the movies, we never even meet Bellatrix's husband, Rudolphus. It's Rudolphus who actually gave Bellatrix her last name, but that hardly seems to matter to her.
In fact, Bellatrix had no real love for Rodolphus. She only married him because she felt obligated to do so. The only person that Bellatrix ever felt true affection for was Voldemort. It's a weird choice to say the least, considering how little love Voldemort seemed to have for anyone besides himself. Still, she was utterly devoted to him.
In a book series created by Gladys Mitchell that contained more than 65 books, there was a prominent female character named Beatrice Adele Lestrange. Apparently, Beatrice is a witch-like detective. It's unclear whether Bellatrix was intentionally named after Beatrice, or whether it's merely a coincidence.
The idea of it being a coincidence seems unlikely, given how close the two names are. It's also possible that J.K. Rowling referenced the name accidentally. After all, great writers do a lot of reading. The name might have come to her mind without her realizing where it had originated. Good writers emulate, great writers steal.
When Voldemort disappeared after he tried to kill Harry, many of his followers pretended they had never served him. They renounced him totally and rejoined society without much hubbub. Bellatrix was far too loyal for any of that. After Voldemort disappeared, Bellatrix and several other Death Eaters made it their mission to seek him out and restore him to power.
As part of that mission, Bellatrix participated in the torture of Neville Longbottom's parents. That's ultimately what got her sent to Azkaban. She was loyal through and through, even when that loyalty meant being unimaginably cruel to otherwise innocent people.
During one crucial scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Hermione takes polyjuice potion in order to impersonate Bellatrix. When they filmed the scene, Helena Bonham Carter had to play Bellatrix, who was really Hermione. In order to really nail it, Helena invited Emma Watson over to her house to better understand how to play Hermione.
I'm sure the two of them had a wonderfully good time. That kind of extracurricular work speaks to both actor's dedication to getting it right. The results basically speak for themselves. That scene is one of the funniest in the entire series.
Bellatrix was an exceptionally gifted witch in many areas. One of the chief skills she never really got the chance to highlight, though, was her skill at occlumency. If you need a brief refresher on what exactly that is, it's the ability to keep your mind from being invaded by other witches and wizards.
Although we never see her use occlumency in the books or the movies, she apparently taught Draco the skill in the books. As a result, Snape is unable to find out what he's planning to take care of Dumbledore. If Snape had known that information, he likely would have passed it along to the Hogwarts headmaster.
The Weasleys are a pure-blooded family. That may seem odd given how much they embrace muggle culture, but it's true nonetheless. The fact of their pure blood means that, without really meaning to, they're related to pretty much every other pure-blood family. The wizarding world is simply too small for magical blood not to connect all of the series' prominent families.
The Weasleys don't seem to share any traits in common with most of the Blacks we get the chance to meet. Still, it's a good reminder that blood does not dictate a character's journey or destiny. Good people come from houses of ill-repute, and vice versa. There's no hard and fast rule. Just look at Sirius.
After Bellatrix kills Sirius, Harry is understandably a little upset. He decides to take out his anger with Bellatrix using an unforgivable curse. Specifically, he uses the cruciatus curse in an attempt to make her feel unbelievable pain. The curse knocks her back, but it doesn't have the intended effect. She tells him that he has to really mean it for it to be effective.
In doing so, she inadvertently teaches Harry how to use them. Of course, because Harry is generally a good person, he probably doesn't have cause to very often. Even in his final battle with Voldemort, he casts a disarming spell. He never wants to maim people, even though he might know how to.
In some cases, this is much more obvious than others. Sirius is one of the most obvious examples, but he's far from the only member of the Black family to get their name from a star. In fact, it seems to be a rule. Sirius, Bellatrix, Andromeda, and Narcissa are all stars, as is Regulus.
It's interesting that a family with such lofty aspirations often failed so spectacularly during their time on Earth. The Blacks may have named their children after the stars, but the members of their family were much closer to hell than they were to the sky above.
Every skilled witch needs a worthy wand. Bellatrix's had a dragon heartstring as its core, just like the wands of Hermione Granger, Peter Pettigrew, and Gilderoy Lockhart. Apparently, having a dragon heartstring core makes you more likely to pick up spells quickly. That's certainly true of Hermione, and it's probably true of Bellatrix as well.
It's less clear whether Peter or Gilderoy had that particular ability, given their somewhat limited skills with magic. Apparently, people with dragon heartstring wands are also more likely to turn to the dark arts. Bellatrix is certainly evidence for that particular point, as is Peter Pettigrew.
Given Bellatrix's enormous skill in duels, it may seem odd that Molly Weasley is the person who finally takes her out. In fact, J.K. Rowling had planned Bellatrix's death that way since she first introduced the character. Allowing Molly to strike the final blow in order to protect Ginny did two things.
First, it firmly established how far Molly was willing to go to protect her family, and second, it showed that, just because Molly was a housewife, that didn't mean she couldn't hold her own as a witch. In fact, Bellatrix's demise may have come in part because she underestimated what Molly was capable of.
There's a roiling debate in the Harry Potter community about whether Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is actually canon. Regardless of your opinion in that debate, it's worth noting that in that play, Bellatrix and Voldemort have a secret love child together.
That love child, named Delphini, is a part of the story being told in Cursed Child. Although it's never mentioned J.K.'s books, it seems the two had sex sometime around Half-Blood Prince and had the baby in total secrecy. Because both her parents died at the end of Harry Potter, Delphini was left an orphan without any parents to speak of, just like Harry.
There are few people who can say they've ever successfully tangled with Albus Dumbledore. The man is a legendary wizard for a reason. Voldemort wasn't the only one who went through life fearing Voldemort. In fact, his number one supporter felt very much the same way. There's a reason Bellatrix backed away when Voldemort and Dumbledore dueled instead of trying to help her master.
It's notable, though, that Bellatrix has successfully blocked one of Dumbledore's attacks. Although she likely wouldn't want to face him one-on-one, she is skilled enough to protect herself from him when she needs to.
There's a certain manic quality about Bellatrix, especially in the films. She's clearly malevolent, but there's also a level of glee in her that isn't absent in some of the story's other villains. The reason that comes across so clearly is Helena Bonham Carter's performance, which she apparently based, at least in part, on children.
When you watch her, that quality in her performance is clear. She's always looking to get into mischief. For her, that means murdering the innocent and torturing everyone she meets. It's perverse, but it's also child-like in a way. She just seems so happy to be causing such pain.
The families in the Harry Potter stories all come with some level of history. In the case of the Blacks, there are few families older. They can trace their lineage all the way back to the Middle Ages. That's at least partially a function of their pure blood and speaks to why they place such an emphasis on it today.
Ironically, the man many of them chose to follow, Voldemort, doesn't have the same proud history, at least on one side of his family. Pure blood doesn't necessarily make you powerful. For many wizards, it's a source of completely unearned pride.
Even though the Blacks have a lengthy history, that history is riddled with premature deaths. Of course, the most obvious example of this comes with Sirius, who dies without fathering any children while he's still in his 30s. Sirius's brother Regulus met an even earlier demise when he discovered Voldemort's Horcruxes.
It seems that, if you look at the Black family tree, Sirius and Regulus are more of a rule than an exception. The average life expectancy of the Blacks is quite short, even though they supposedly have a proud magical heritage. Death comes for us all at one point or another.
We never get a chance to meet Regulus Black, but he actually plays a hugely important role in the story of Harry Potter. He's the first person we know of to discover the Horcruxes, and it's his work that Harry finishes in Deathly Hallows. Because he was initially a Death Eater, J.K. Rowling has likened Regulus's story to Draco's.
Regulus initially thought he believed in Voldemort's mission, but eventually realized how horrible the man was. Draco comes to a pretty similar realization over the course of his work with Voldemort. He might be comforted to know he's not the first person to realize he'd made a mistake.
Although Sirius arrives in Harry's life a little worse for wear, the Black family as a whole is known for their remarkable good looks. Even though she's somewhat crazed, Bellatrix is also described as quite beautiful in the books. Although we never see Regulus, he's also supposed to be a nice sight to behold.
One of the reasons all the Blacks are so attractive is that their facial features are fairly consistent. They all have dark hair and narrow, chiseled faces. It's a wonder that Sirius never married considering how attractive he was supposed to be. He must have had offers.
Voldemort was smart in many ways, but he was also a little too proud for his own good. In the graveyard when he first returns, he mentions that he had taken steps to prevent his own death. It seems that that wasn't the first time that he accidentally revealed too much about his Horcruxes.
In fact, the only reason that Regulus Black knew about them was that he had let it slip to his followers. Regulus was smart enough to figure out what Voldemort was talking about, and decided to take some definitive action. Of course, he wasn't able to stop Voldemort, but he gave it a shot.
The Black family motto is "Toujours Pur," which in French means "Always Pure." It's a fitting motto for a family so totally obsessed by the purity of their family line, even if it is a little bit too on the nose. Then again, from what we see of Sirius's mother in her portrait at Grimmauld Place, she wasn't exactly a subtle woman.
In fact, she seemed to pride herself on being as bigoted and wrong-headed as possible. She never found a muggle or muggle-born wizard that she didn't hate with all her heart. She was raised by a deeply bigoted family, so that's really no surprise.
Regulus died before the series began, and Sirius dies in the fifth book. Since neither one of them left any children behind, it seems the male line of Blacks is done. As a result, the name is likely to die out completely. It seems like an oddly defiant act that Sirius refused to have children. It was almost as if he wanted his cursed family name to disappear forever.
Regulus may have wanted to produce a Black heir at one time, but his change of heart likely made him realize how much baggage his family gave him while he was young.
It's already fairly clear that the Black family tree is not as pure as many in the family would have liked it to be. When Harry takes a second to look at it during Order of the Phoenix, it becomes clear that the Blacks have simply scrubbed certain members of their family off of the tree. If any of the Blacks marry a muggle or produce a squib, they're removed from the tree and everyone pretends they never existed.
It's a hard thing to take actions that will mean you get disowned. Still, many Blacks ultimately choose that path, as hard as it is.
One of Bellatrix's sisters was actually disowned for marrying a muggle. Nymphadora Tonks's mother Andromeda married Ted Tonks and never spoke to either of her sisters again. When Harry meets Andromeda in the books, it's immediately clear to him that she's Bellatrix's sister, which only makes him more confused as to why she's helping him.
Over the course of the series, Harry learns just how complicated family can be. It doesn't define who we are, but it has a crucial role in shaping us, even if we decide to rebel against everything that it stands for. Everyone gets messed up by their parents in one way or another.
Interestingly enough, in spite of the hardship of leaving your family forever, many Blacks get disowned. Those that have examined the family tree in great detail say that at least one Black in every generation was disowned by the family for one reason or another.
Squibs are fairly common, but they likely don't explain everyone who's been scrubbed from the tree. It's comforting, in a way, to know that a family so focused on blood purity produced quite a few people who didn't believe any of that. Good people can be raised by bad people, and it seems that kind of thing actually happens fairly frequently at Grimmauld Place.
We know already that Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Regulus were pretty overt supporters of Voldemort and everything he stood for, so much so that they became Death Eaters. Although not everyone in the family took that path, there were many who believed in what he stood for, even if they didn't become his soldiers, per se.
Some, like Regulus, became a little less excited about Voldemort once they saw how cruel he was willing to be. It just goes to show that plenty of people believe horrid things, but also don't have the taste to shed blood over them.
To his dying day, Sirius believed that his brother had been killed by his fellow Death Eaters. Sirius wasn't sure exactly why that had happened but figured that Regulus had gotten cold feet when he saw what was involved with being a Death Eater.
Of course, we eventually learned that Regulus died trying to steal Voldemort's locket, and was ultimately successful in doing so. It may have cost him his life, but Regulus's last act was one of bravery and selflessness. That certainly complicates his brother's feelings about him. He wasn't such a worthless kid after all.
If you look at the Black family tree, Sirius Black and Regulus Black aren't exactly the first people in their families with those names. Given the fact that most Blacks are named after stars, it's no surprise that an ancient family like the Blacks might eventually run out of names. Looking back, it seems like Sirius is the most common name in the family.
Interestingly, despite the history of his name, Sirius chose to buck all of the traditions that defined his family. He realized that traditions only mean something because people pretend they do. They're nothing if you don't invest yourself in them.
Gary Oldman's performance as Sirius is part of what made the character so iconic. Robson Green was Christopher Columbus's first choice for the part, but Christopher didn't end up directing The Prisoner of Azkaban. Instead, that job went to Roma director Alfonso Cuarón.
Alfonso's choice for the role was Gary, who ended up getting the part. Prisoner of Azkaban ended up being one of the very best Harry Potter films thanks to Alfonso, and Gary Oldman's performance was certainly another reason for the film's success. It turned out to be a near perfect combination of actor and director working together.
Because the wizarding world is so small, inbreeding is a fairly common occurrence for those looking to keep their family lines pure. The Blacks practiced inbreeding more than most families, which may have explained why some of the family members seemed a little bit ~off~.
Although genetics are never a huge topic in the Harry Potter series, it's a safe bet that the same genetic rules apply to wizards as they do to muggles. Inbreeding might be okay for a little while, but eventually, it's going to lead to some severe genetic defects. Maybe having some babies with muggles is actually the best thing for the Black gene pool.
Although it may seem like a fairly trivial piece of information, J.K. Rowling only revealed when Sirius was born years after she was done with the books. Sirius died when he was still a young man, and that was fairly common in the wizarding world when Voldemort was in power.
It's interesting, too, that Sirius never mentioned his birthday to Harry or tried to celebrate it alongside his godson. Sirius was certainly quite kind to Harry when it came to birthdays. I'm sure that Harry would have liked to repay the favor had he been given the opportunity to do so.
Life in Azkaban does not sound good. In fact, it sounds terrible. We tend to forget, in part because most of the adult characters were aged up for the movies, that most of the events involving Harry's parents happened when they were still quite young. In fact, Sirius was imprisoned in Azkaban for aiding in their murder when he was only 22.
For the next 12 years, he rotted away in a cell. He was surrounded by dementors at all times and wasn't allowed to feel very much happiness. Most of Sirius's young adulthood was sapped away from him in an instant for a crime he didn't commit.
Although Sirius is a pretty handsome man in both the books and the movies, he never really considered settling down. Apparently, he just wasn't built for it. He was far too wild and rebellious to ever find a woman, and it seems like his real devotion was to the Order of the Phoenix and his friends. Of course, it couldn't have helped matters that he was put in Azkaban when he was still a pretty young man.
Although we never see what it's like inside Azkaban firsthand, it doesn't seem like the best place to meet women. Some men are just bachelors for life, and it seems that was the case for Sirius.
It's no wonder many people assumed that Sirius had a role in James and Lily's deaths. Not only was he the only person who knew where they were, but he was also found laughing at the site of their murder. J.K. has confirmed that Sirius was indeed laughing, but it was a hollow, pitiful laugh. He had been defeated by Wormtail, and he knew it.
As she put it in a 2005 interview, "Yes, he laughed," J.K. said. "He knew what he’d lost. It was a humorless laugh. Pettigrew…it turned out that he was a better wizard than they knew. Turned out he was better at hiding secrets than they knew."
James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus all had codenames on the Marauder's Map. James was Prongs, Sirius was Padfoot, Peter was Wormtail, and Remus was Mooney. Although Sirius's nickname seems like a clever play on the fact that his animagus is a dog, it's not quite that simple. In fact, the name Padfoot comes from English folklore, where it refers to a hellhound known as Black Shuck.
Given the way we're introduced to Sirius's animagus, that name seems entirely appropriate. This is a myth that centers on a big, black dog. It was the perfect nickname for Sirius's other half, and it fits his human personality pretty well too.
In both the books and the movies, Sirius is an animagus. It's one of the reasons it's so hard for people to find him after he escapes Azkaban — he never was registered for shapeshifting into an animal. He turns into a dog in both the books and movies too. In the books, though, the dog that he turns into is quite large. It's described to be the size of a bear.
The movies elected to simplify Sirius's transformation by turning him into a normal-sized dog. This allowed them to cast real dogs, instead of using CGI, which may have proved difficult. If Sirius had been bigger in the movies, though, he might have done a better job going head-to-head with a werewolf.
One actor, Gary Oldman, played Sirius through each of the movies he appeared in the film series. The dogs playing Sirius changed a bit, though. Over the course of the films he appeared in, three different dogs played him. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius's dog form was played by Fern and Cleod. When Sirius becomes a dog again in Order of the Phoenix, he's played by Quinn.
I'm sure we can all agree that, despite the way they gnash their teeth, all three are good dogs. It's not their fault that, in Prisoner of Azkaban at least, Harry thought Sirius was an omen of death.
Because he was imprisoned at such a young age, Sirius never got to become a real adult. Instead, his development was somewhat arrested. That's why, even in the time that Harry knows him, he's a bit of a loose cannon who typically takes his godson's side. That was part of what Harry loved so much about his godfather.
Still, Sirius's recklessness may also have ultimately cost him his life. He was so stir-crazy at the headquarters of the Order that he went to fight at the Ministry when he should have stayed home. If Sirius had been a little more willing to listen to reason, he may have survived the series. Of course, then he wouldn't really be Sirius.